Teeth bonding, also known as dental bonding, is a cosmetic procedure to correct tooth discoloration, yellowing, staining, chipping or cracking, minor cavities, or gaps between teeth. With this approach, a specialized composite resin is used to improve the appearance of teeth, making them brighter, whiter, and more even.
If you’re considering this treatment, it’s important to understand how it works, what it can and cannot fix, and how to care for bonded teeth. This article provides a quick overview of teeth bonding as a way to fix your smile.
How Does Teeth Bonding Work?
In this cosmetic procedure, a tooth-colored substance, or dental restoration, is affixed (bonded) to an existing tooth or teeth. The material used for teeth bonding is a clay-like plastic composite similar in consistency to what your dentist uses for dental fillings.
There are two primary approaches taken to applying this composite to the teeth. These are:
- Direct teeth bonding: The more common of the procedures, the composite resin is directly applied to the teeth in the office during a single visit. It’s then shaped and finished to create a natural-looking appearance.
- Indirect teeth bonding: In some cases, the restoration is crafted and shaped outside the office before being applied to the teeth. Indirect bonding takes two appointments: One to take an impression and get the data needed to customize the bond and a second to attach it.
Dental Bonding vs. Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are another cosmetic option for making more minor corrections to your smile. These are shells created to go over existing teeth. While highly effective, the treatment is typically more expensive and extensive than teeth bonding.
Before the process, the cosmetic dentist will spend time preparing the specialized composite. Since the idea is to create a natural-looking, unblemished smile, they will work to ensure the resin matches the color of surrounding teeth.
The Dental Bonding Process
Once the composite is ready, there are several steps to the teeth bonding process:
- Prepare the tooth: The tooth’s surface needs to be prepared by roughening it and then applying a blue conditioning liquid (to clean the surface). This step helps the bonding material stick/adhere to the tooth.
- Applying adhesive: The dentist will first coat the tooth with an adhesive material and then carefully apply the composite. Next, a high-intensity light is used to harden the composite and set it into place. Local anesthesia isn’t usually necessary unless a tooth filling is also occurring.
- Shaping: The dentist then uses tools to shape the bond, ensuring it lines up with surrounding teeth and doesn’t affect your bite.
- Polishing and finishing: The area is then smoothed and polished to ensure an attractive, natural look.
Indirect Teeth Bonding
Since indirect teeth bonding relies on creating the dental restoration outside of the office, you’ll need multiple appointments. During the first appointment, the dentist takes an impression of the affected area and sends it to a laboratory. There, specialized technologies are used to craft the restoration. The second appointment is to bond/deliver the composite shell.
Time to Completion
The typical direct bonding procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes per tooth. Much depends on the level of your dentist’s experience and the scope of the work you need done. No recovery period is necessary, and you should be able to eat normally on the same day.
If you’re having an indirect bonding procedure, you’ll need one appointment to take an impression of the affected area and a second to adhere the composite.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Teeth Bonding
Like any cosmetic dental procedure, teeth bonding has its own set of advantages and disadvantages when compared to other methods of smile correction. Understanding these is critical for making an informed decision about whether this treatment is right for you.
Advantages of Teeth Bonding
Teeth bonding is widely performed. In fact, a survey of cosmetic dentistry practices in 2015 found it to be the second most applied procedure. There are plenty of reasons for this popularity.
The advantages of teeth bonding include:
- Low-risk: Dental bonding is very safe since dental restorations are only on the tooth’s surface. There’s a very low risk of complications, and the procedure is completely reversible.
- Minimally-invasive: In contrast to other methods, such as installing porcelain veneers, little to no enamel needs to be removed for teeth bonding. There’s also no recovery period needed.
- Cost: Compared to most other cosmetic treatments, teeth bonding is usually less expensive. Dental veneers—a common alternative—are significantly pricier.
- Fewer appointments: For direct bonding procedures (the majority), only one appointment is necessary.
Disadvantages of Teeth Bonding
When compared with other cosmetic dental treatments, there are also some limitations with teeth bonding. These include:
- Limited scope: While this treatment can be great for minor corrections of the smile or removing discolorations, there are limitations to what it can do. For example, it can’t replace teeth, and you’ll likely need dental crowns for more severe cases of tooth decay.
- Longevity: While the composite material used in teeth bonding is very strong, there’s a higher chance of the restorations chipping or cracking. Dental veneers and crowns are expected to last longer.
- Staining: Bonded restorations are more susceptible to staining than dental crowns or veneers.
Composite Bonding: Care and Lifespan of Bonded Teeth
Generally speaking, bonded teeth can last 15 years, but they’ll likely need replacing within three to 10 years. Much depends on how well you take care of your teeth afterward. Poor oral care and habits can damage the restoration or cause staining and discoloration. Knowing how to take care of your bonded teeth helps ensure their longevity.
Caring for Bonded Teeth
While no specific, special care is needed for bonded teeth, good oral hygiene habits can go a long way in preserving their appearance. What does this mean? Here’s a quick breakdown of dental restoration care basics:
- Keep up your oral hygiene: Ensure you’re brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. Keep up with dental cleanings, aiming for annual or semi-annual visits. Tobacco smoking not only stains teeth but is bad for teeth. Consider quitting. Coffee and tea stains can also be a factor in staining teeth.
- Watch what you chew: While the composite restorations are quite durable, they aren’t as strong as teeth. To preserve bonded teeth, avoid very hard foods, such as hard candies or chewing ice.
- Manage teeth grinding: Many people grind their teeth (known as bruxism) while sleeping or unconsciously throughout the day. This can impact the lifespan of a restoration, so managing this can help. This may involve developing relaxation techniques or a visit to your dentist.
- Avoid teeth whitening: Teeth whitening solutions only work on natural teeth, so this practice, whether in-office or at home, will only highlight differences in shade.
Lifespan of Bonded Teeth
Ultimately, bonded composites are a durable means of correcting a smile but not a permanent solution. They’re expected to last five to 10 years, with some lasting 15 years or longer.
In comparison, the typical lifespan of porcelain veneers, at 20 to 25 years, is considerably longer. With good care, they’re a long-term solution to cosmetic issues.
Cost of Teeth Bonding
Compared to other treatments, teeth bonding tends to be less expensive. Typical costs range based on the specific case from $925 to $2,500 per tooth.
As with many dental treatments, however, the amount you pay depends on the specific treatment needed and your insurance plan. In many cases, cosmetic procedures are not covered if there isn’t a medical or dental health need.
Teeth bonding is a cosmetic dental procedure that can fix chipped or cracked teeth, correct gaps or spaces between teeth, remove staining and discoloration, or correct other aesthetic issues. Typically performed in a single visit, the dentist directly applies a tooth-like composite substance, or restoration, to the affected tooth or teeth.
To ensure the restoration lasts, it’s important to develop effective dental hygiene habits, avoiding hard-to-chew foods and teeth whitening strips or procedures. It’s a common, well-established, and highly successful option for smile correction.
A Word From Verywell
Improving the appearance of your teeth isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about feeling better and more comfortable in your smile. Teeth bonding can be a great option to fix your smile; it’s well-tolerated, effective, and commonly used. If you’re thinking about this treatment, talk to your dentist about your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does bonding last on the teeth?
The resin composite used for teeth bonding is durable but does have a shelf-life. With good oral care, bonding can last up to 15 years; however, it’s generally expected to last five to 10 years. Bonded teeth are also susceptible to staining and discoloration if you don’t keep up with good oral habits.
What does bonding do to your teeth?
The resin composite used for teeth bonding attaches directly onto tooth surfaces, like cement. In most cases, no enamel needs to be removed, so it’s a non-invasive and reversible treatment. It can restore the smile’s appearance, take on some cavities and cracked or chipped teeth, fix gaps between teeth, or remove stains or discoloration.
Does bonding ruin your teeth?
One of the main reasons teeth bonding is so commonly applied is that it’s a non-invasive procedure that doesn’t harm your teeth as much as others. Unlike dental crown or porcelain veneer installation, no enamel needs to be removed. Existing teeth are completely undamaged by teeth bonding.